April 13, 2024
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הַאֲזִינוּ הַשָּׁמַיִם, וַאֲדַבֵּרָה; {ס} וְתִשְׁמַע הָאָרֶץ, אִמְרֵי-פִי[1].

The Talmud Yeru­shalmi relates the following “discussion.” Nevuah (prophecy) argued that the appropriate penalty for committing a sin is death. Chochmah (wisdom) countered and argued suffering. Torah responded, “He should bring a sacrifice and be forgiven.” Hashem then said, “The sinner should repent and he will be pardoned.”

We see from this exchange that teshuva (repentance) was prescribed solely by Hashem, adding meaning to “V’ein domeh lach, There is none comparable to You.[2]

In this week’s parsha, the Yalkut Shimoni[3] questions the hidden meaning of הַאֲזִינוּ הַשָּׁמַיִם, וַאֲדַבֵּרָה; {ס} וְתִשְׁמַע הָאָרֶץ, אִמְרֵי-פִי in comparison to [4]שִׁמְעוּ שָׁמַיִם וְהַאֲזִינִי אֶרֶץ, the former spoken by Moshe Rabbeinu and the latter by Yeshayahu the prophet. When two people are conversing with one another, others may hear the conversation but they are not listening with the same level of intensity. This is the difference between the elevated generation of Moshe Rabbeinu versus the lowered generation of Yeshayahu. Whereas Moshe spoke into the ear of Hashem (הַאֲזִינוּ הַשָּׁמַיִם), Yeshayahu spoke into the ear of the earth (וְהַאֲזִינִי אֶרֶץ). We derive this understanding from closely analyzing the word הַאֲזִינוּ, which contains the root word ozen/ear, meaning to speak into the ear of an individual, a level far more intense than (וְתִשְׁמַע הָאָרֶץ or שִׁמְעוּ שָׁמַיִם), which implies hearing, albeit from a distance.

Within the tefillah of Mussaf Rosh Hashanah, prior to Birkas Kohanim, we state the following: Ki Ata Shomea kol shofar, uma’azin teruah, v’ein domeh lach. Baruch ata Hashem Shomea kol teru’os amo Yisrael, b’rachamim[5].” In Hilchos Shofros[6], the Pri Migadim cites Rav Chaim HaCohen Rapaport, rav of L’vov, who offered the following explanation to this awe-inspiring prayer.

Ki Ata shomea kol shofar. Similar to the straight and consistent sound of the tekiah shofar blast, Hashem is shome’a to the consistent sounds of the tzadik (e.g., tefilla, tzedaka, and commitment to Torah and mitzvos) not just during the month of Elul, but all year long. However, come Rosh Hashanah, Hashem is ma’azin to the sound of the teruah (u’ma’azin teruah)—Hashem places His ear near the individual who is a teruah. Meaning, similar to the series of inconsistent blasts, this individual’s commitment to Torah and mitzvos varies significantly from one day to the next; at times he is observant, and other times he lacks resolve.

“V’ein domeh lach.” There is none is comparable to You. Would Caesar tolerate a slave who independently decided when to serve his master? Would he welcome him back to his post to serve another day? Never! Mortal kings do not repair or make use of broken vessels, i.e., ba’alei teshuvah. Who is like Hashem that allows for the return of “broken vessels” or the inconsistent (teruah) contributor? For this and so much more we are thankful to Hashem, and therefore recite the following blessing: Baruch ata Hashem, Shomea kol teru’os amo Yisrael, b’rachamim.

Be sensitive to the difference between the first statement and the language found within the bracha. Looking closely, we observe that the words “u’maazin teruah” are replaced by the words “shomea kol teruos.” Meaning, now Hashem listens to the sounds and the responsive words that follow the teruah shofar blast as though it were a tekiah, a consistent voice heard during the entire year. The ability for one to be chozer b’tshuva and be judged with incredible mercy (rachamim), and not judgment (midas hadin), is strictly Divine. Indeed, Hashem has a special love for the ba’al teshuvah, teruah, for “In the place where the ba’al teshuvah stands even tzaddikim gemurim—the greatest of the righteous—cannot stand.”[7]Therefore, when we speak of the teruah, the term “ma’azin” (ozen, ear) is found—in order to emphasize Hashem’s closeness to the ba’al teshuvah. Accordingly, David Hamelach said[8], אַשְׁרֵי הָעָם, יֹדְעֵי תְרוּעָה; ה’, בְּאוֹר-פָּנֶיךָ יְהַלֵּכוּן, emphasizing the need for one to recognize the hidden meaning of this powerful attribute.

As we approach Rosh Hashanah, we walk into the synagogue with different modes of preoccupied thought. Indeed, the tzadik and the ba’al teshuva approach Rosh Hashanah from opposite spectrums of comfort: the former with ease and confidence and the latter with distress and depression. We must remember, however, that whenever we seek to improve ourselves, however incrementally, we are all ba’alei teshuva. Accordingly, we have unparalleled access to Hashem’s ear. In this manner one stands to be rewarded with Hashem hearing the voice of the teruah with the same level of sincerity and interest as the voice of the tekiah.

The verse concludes with the word b’rachamim, with mercy. Meaning, this unique, Divine feature can only occur when Hashem moves from the “seat of judgment” and rests in the “seat of mercy.”

This, my friend, is the ultimate blessing.

May we be inspired to internalize the sound of the teruah, and in this merit may Hashem listen closely to our voice, and then hear our words such that we will all be blessed with a g’mar chasima tova.

Mordechai Plotsker runs a popular 10-minute nightly shiur on the parsha with a keen interest on the invigorating teachings of the Berditchever Rav, the Kedushas Levi. Plotsker resides in Elizabeth with his wife and children, and can be reached by email at [email protected].

 

[1]1 Devarim, 32:1. Give ear, ye heavens, and I will speak; and let the earth hear the words of my mouth.

[2]2 Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, Sefer Vidibarta Bam citing the Yerushalmi Talmud, Maseches Makos 2:6.

[3]3 Onset of Parshas Ha’Azinu

[4]4 Yeshayahu, 1:2. Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth

[5]5 For You hear the sound of the Shofar and You give ear to the Teruah, and none is comparable to You. Blessed are You, Hashem, Who hears the shofar-sound of His people Israel with mercy.

[6]6 Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, Pri Migadim, Siman 592:1

[7]7 Meseches Brachos, 34B.

[8]8 Tehillim, 89:16.  Happy is the people who know the joyful shout; they walk, O LORD, in the light of Thy countenance.

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